What To Watch: Sundance Online!

Eight festival films to dial up this weekend. Plus: Two chillers on Netflix.

What To Watch: Sundance Online!

I’m back home in the Boston area after six days and 23 movies in Park City, Utah – pardon me while I scoop my brains back into my ears – but the good news is that the 2024 Sundance Film Festival continues to run online until this Sunday night at midnight, meaning you can avail yourself of many of the offerings at home for $25 a ticket. The most popular titles, like “Thelma” are “sold out” already, which only means access has been capped for server-load reasons or because the distributors asked the festival to, but many of those favorites will become available again tomorrow morning, now that the Audience and Jury awards have been announced as of today. (“A Real Pain” just won the screenwriting award, so tickets should be available.) The online festival line-up is here; instructions on how to watch are here. Below are the films still available for online rental – until Sunday night, remember – that I can recommend on the basis of having seen them myself or hearing my fellow critics kvell about them. (Title links are to the Sundance page for each film, which should provide access to the digital versions.)

A Real Pain (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – Probably the best, most moving film I saw at Sundance 2024. Starts as a buddy comedy about two cousins on a Holocaust memorial tour, becomes a profoundly expressive portrait of the differing ways we react to family histories and the world’s weight. Co-star Jesse Eisenberg comes into his own as a writer-director, but this is Kieran Culkin’s show as the more manic and vulnerable of the pair. Which is an irony you’ll appreciate when you see the movie.

Between the Temples

Between The Temples” – An existentially stalled Jewish cantor (Jason Schwartzman) finds new meaning in life when his 70-something grammar school music teacher (Carol Kane) shows up wanting to be bat mitzvahed. Funny and touching and shaggy and weird – all good things. I gave this ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ after seeing it early in the festival, but it has expanded nicely in my head to ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2. If only for giving Carol Kane room to be her daft, magical self, this should be seen.

Black Box Diaries

Black Box Diaries (⭐ ⭐ ⭐1/2) – Galvanizing first-person documentary about Shiori Itō, the Japanese journalist who, after being roofied and raped by a powerful media figure in 2015, went public with her accusations and forced her country to confront centuries of social stigmas and cultural hypocrisies. The backlash Itō experienced will infuriate you; the scenes in which witnesses unexpectedly offer support may make you cry.


Daughters” – I didn’t see this one, but by all accounts it’s an emotional killer: A documentary about four young girls preparing for a Daddy Daughter Dance with their incarcerated fathers. Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary.


Every Little Thing” – Another one I’m looking to catch up with before Sunday night: A documentary about Terry Masear, a Los Angeles woman finding her own healing by caring for hummingbirds. It’s got birds, so I’m in, but it sounds like a poetic charmer in any event.

Gaucho Gaucho

Gaucho Gaucho – Did you see the excellent 2021 documentary “The Truffle Hunters”? You should. Now directors Gregory Kershaw and Michael Dweck turn their cameras on another disappearing way of life, this time on the pampas of Argentina, where a new generation of South American cowboys carries on an ancient tradition. Winner of a Special Jury Award for Sound.

Good One

Good One– “On a weekend backpacking trip in the Catskills, 17-year-old Sam (Lily Collias) contends with the competing egos of her father (James Le Gros) and his oldest friend (Danny McCarthy).” I held off on this one because why pay for what you can get at home for free? I’m kidding (sort of), but my good friend Rolling Stone film critic David Fear – who also has toiled in the badlands of adolescent daughters – claims this is one of the best of the fest. I’ll be seeing it before the axe falls on Sunday.

Skywalkers: A Love Story

Skywalkers: A Love Story (⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – A documentary that works as a cross between “Man on Wire” (insane high-wire acts) and ”Fire of Love” (devoted couple push the envelope of experience), with a bit of “Free Solo” (you couldn’t pay me to climb that thing). Russian rooftoppers Angela Nikolau and Ivan Beerkus tour the world illegally ascending to the very tippy-top of skyscrapers. In the process they test their relationship and our vertigo. It’s an Instagram-ready love story, and the line between living a romance and performing it gets hazy, but there’s no denying the couple’s outrageous achievements.

Sundance housecleaning: The following festival titles aren’t available for online rental, but I saw ‘em, and, by God, I’m going to write about them.

War Game (⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – On January 6 of last year, a group of civil servants and intelligence experts from across five Presidential administrations gathered in Washington to game out a simulation: What if there were a post-election coup attempt (by a Proud Boys-style “Order of Columbus”) that included elements of the military turning against the government? This documentary from busy filmmaker Jesse Moss (“Boys State,” “Girls State”) with co-director Tony Gerber turns the cameras on for the entire six-hour exercise, with former Montana governor Steve Bullock playing the President, former Senator Heidi Heitkamp and retired general Wesley Clark as advisors, and a back room of game designers (including retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman) throwing curveballs to see if and when the Insurrection Act gets declared. It’s a frightening and very timely film, overly heavy on the thriller music and arguably naïve about the end result, but well worth seeing and arguing with. Let’s hope the real policy makers are paying attention. (Seeking distribution.)

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – Not a dry eye in the house. The eeriest part of Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui’s documentary about the late actor and disability activist is hearing Reeve narrate his own life story in sound recordings taken from two audiobooks made during his life. The film begins with the 1995 riding accident that rendered the “Superman” star quadriplegic and moves forward and backward from there. Home movies and on-camera interviews with Reeve’s grown children Matthew, Alexandra, and Will are especially affecting as testaments not only to their father’s spirit and endurance but second wife Dana Reeve’s unstoppable support. Thankfully, “Super/Man” stops short of hagiography, giving us a portrait of a man in full that can’t help but back into profound admiration. Food for thought: Interviewee Glenn Close declares that if Reeve were still alive, so would his longtime friend Robin Williams, who killed himself in 2014. (Seeking distribution.)

Look Into My Eyes (⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – The latest documentary by Lana Wilson (“Miss Americana,” “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields”) is a group portrait of six New York City psychics that explodes the cliché of scarf-wearing old women in store-front clip joints. Through interviews and long, uninflected filming of sessions with clients, “Look Into My Eyes” makes the case that whether you believe in psychic ability or not, it doesn’t really matter – what’s happening here is therapy, and often powerfully so. Wilson doesn’t commit to an opinion; instead, she shows us practitioners who are as much survivors of their own damage and loss as the people who come to them, the latter from every economic class and generation. That said, there a few moments here that may have you doubting your doubt. Plus, who wouldn’t want to take their dog to an animal psychic to find out what he’s thinking? (Okay, I would.) (In theaters later this year from A24.)

Freaky Tales

Freaky Tales (⭐ ⭐) – An ode to 1980s Oakland, CA, in four high-spirited chapters, each referencing a different B-movie genre of the era: Punk explosion, hip-hop musical, Tarantino-style gangster mayhem, and kung fu madness. Sounds like fun and it intermittently is – Dominique Thorne and Normani are delightful as a rhyme-spitting duo taking on the boys in an epic rap battle – but this is a movie made with more love than juice. Writer-directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden are best known for low-key indie realism (“Half Nelson,” “Sugar”), one Marvel movie (“Captain Marvel”), and some good TV (episodes of “Mrs. America,” “Billions”), but what they’re missing is the down-and-dirty trash gene that enlivens their sources – the sense that you’re on a rollercoaster about to fly off the track. The result is a midnight movie with clean fingernails, a product of skill and admiration that lacks the key element of danger. With appearances by the hometown rap hero Too Short, the late actor Angus McCloud (“Euphoria”), and some Oakland kid named Tom Hanks. (Seeking distribution.)

New on Netflix: Two good psychological thrillers —

“The Babadook” (2014, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2) – Wait, Jennifer Kent’s horror breakthrough is ten years old already? A young widow (the phenomenal Essie Davis) copes with a monster in the closet that her child (Noah Wiseman) is convinced is real. Maybe it is – or maybe it’s all in her exhausted, guilt-ridden head. A psychodrama about the pressures and anxieties of motherhood, it’s also a pretty good monster movie.

“The Nest” (2020, ⭐ ⭐ ⭐) – “The Amityville Horror” in the English countryside? Not really. A family moves into a rambling Surrey mansion, where the high-rolling father (Jude Law) begins to come apart at the seams and his wife (Carrie Coons) starts seeing the empty suit that was her husband. Strikingly filmed by writer-director Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “The Iron Claw”) and featuring a terrific cast, this disappointed viewers expecting a shriekfest because it isn’t one. As I wrote in my Boston Globe review, “the thing I like about this movie is the question it leaves tantalizingly unresolved to the end. Is the house haunting the family? Or is the family haunting the house?”

Comments? Let’s hear ‘em.

If you enjoyed this edition of Ty Burr’s Watch List, feel free to pass it along to others.

If you’re not a paying subscriber and would like to sign up for additional postings and to join the discussions — or just help underwrite this enterprise, for which the author would be eternally grateful — here’s how.